Clouds Rest, Yosemite

2016 Sierra Outsider Online Filmfest (My Favorite Online Outdoor Videos of 2016)

I watch a lot of outdoor films on Youtube, Vimeo and elsewhere. A lot. I guess that’s what happens when you don’t have cable, and have already watched Planet Earth on Netflix one million times.

I’ve also been lucky enough to tag along with Lynn as she scouts films at the South Yuba Citizens League Wild and Scenic Film Festival – she’s hosted an on tour stop of the festival in South Lake Tahoe for Sierra Nevada Alliance for the last few years.

So with the format of that great film festival in mind, I thought I would collect my favorites of 2016 all in one place, a perfect way to spend a rainy afternoon or to pass the time when a cold is keeping you inside.

Enjoy.

First up, is Our Land – a beautifully shot and edited film with some fancy kit about traversing Oregon, surfing, mountain biking and fly fishing along the way.

Next we stay in Oregon with a film about rebuilding a community called Oakridge, in part with mountain biking. This film convinced Lynn and I to stop and ride in Oakridge on our Northwest Road Trip last summer. While this one isn’t actually from 2016, I found it this year, so I’m counting it.

Moving north, this next film also talks about communities embracing mountain biking and tourism as new revenue as timber declines – this time on Vancouver’s Sunshine Coast. Freehub Magazine has been creating some fantastic films, and their work recently caught the attention of Teton Gravity Research, one of the giants of the ski and snowboard movie world, teaming up to produce the “Next Exit” series, which you should also check out.

Bringing the theme of community building with bikes (don’t worry, this won’t only be mountain biking, I promise) closer to home, here’s a video from First Track Productions about a Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association project that brought the South Lake Tahoe community together.

Alright, we’ll leave mountain biking behind for now, and move to what inevitably comes after mountain biking – beer! This is another film about a rural community (in this case, California’s Mono County) diversifying tourism and the economy it brings. I’m lucky to get to write for Mono County Tourism through East River PR, and I personally love June Lake Brewing, so this film was a gimme.

I mentioned the Wild and Scenic Film Festival earlier, and one of my favorite films from the 2016 festival is now free online, thanks to OARS. Martin’s Boat blends a passion for white water and conservation in the desert Southwest.

When I was young, I decided Yosemite was the center of the universe. You should watch every film in the Yosemite Nature Notes series, but this one, published last winter, hit home for me, as I learned to ski at Yosemite’s Badger Pass.

Last up, partially because I haven’t put a rock climbing film in, and partially because I really enjoy all the IFHT films, is “How to be a Rock Climber.”

I’m sure I’m missing a few great videos I watched this year, but this is a good list. What were your favorites from 2016?

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Mountain Bike Coaching with A Single Track Mind (Video)

I recently worked with Dylan Renn, who started up his own Mountain Bike Coaching Business, A Single Track Mind, to put together a video about his work:

Lynn made a guest-star appearance, and picked up some great pointers along the way.

I was impressed with Dylan’s coaching style and really enjoyed putting this together. Go to www.asingletrackmind.com to find out more.

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MTB in the PNW – An Oregon-Washington Road Trip

I’ve been a Sierra snob for a while now. And a California snob too. But Lynn has dutifully, gradually opened my eyes to the Pacific Northwest – a few quick family and friend trips to Seattle, Reardan and Bellingham, and an impromptu road trip to Bend in the middle of winter.

In July, we bit off a bigger chunk of the PNW, linking together Oakridge, Bellingham, Leavenworth, Reardan and Bend with a mountain bike theme over the course of a little more than a week. That’s a lot of miles, a lot of hours behind the wheel, but also a pretty incredible swath of country outside my usual roaming territory.

Seven-plus hours in my packed flying toaster (#toasterroadtrip) on the back roads of north-eastern California and Southern Oregon delivered us to Oakridge, a small, sleepy one-time logging town that’s been the topic of a lot of talk on the economic engine that is mountain bike tourism.

Sure enough, after setting up the tent and hammock in the lush green moss-veiled forest campground just up Salmon Creek from town, we found ourselves in the local brewpub (Brewers Union Local 180) among many other Northern Californians from the Bay Area, Nevada City and elsewhere.

 

Shuttle booked for the famed Alpine Trail, we hit the sleeping pad early in a mercifully quiet campground, and woke up early the next morning.

The Alpine Trail did not disappoint. The shuttle (Oregon Adventures) grunted and bounced us up a dirt road into the soil-soaking clouds – the driver stopping a couple times to explain trail crossings and intersections. Soft, black loamy dirt and a brisk first climb delivered us to a cool, foggy meadow with views to other wooded ridges decorated in wisps of mist.

Not a technical trail like, say, the Downieville Downhill, smooth, flowing singletrack with great berms and occasional steeps and tight switchbacks quickly had me counting this as one of my favorite rides. As we lost elevation, soil occasionally gave way to loose shale or dry dirt with a few sections of steep exposure off the side. And while the majority of the 14 miles were downhill, both Lynn and I were spent by the time we were done.

Another long drive through some Portland and Seattle area traffic landed us in Lynn’s college town of Bellingham, Washington. The last trip here in February sold Lynn on her Transition Smuggler, and she was eager to bring it back to its native habitat – Galbraith. This time our loop of SST was dryer and we were both a little quicker, but I did enjoy the tackier winter conditions of our first trip. Amazing trail building really keeps you on your toes – and while I love my Trance – I did kind of miss the Transition Patrol I demoed last time. Must resist.

The drive up Highway 2, over Stevens Pass, had this Sierra snob wide-eyed on our way to Leavenworth Washington, where we met up with Lynn’s parents and friends. One of her friends, Tommy, lead us on the Freund Trail. Starting off in quickly rising temperatures and a longer, steeper climb than we’d done in a while had me doubting, but once the trail turned downhill into an endless series of berms and whoops, I took it all back. Lynn said it was her favorite ride of the trip, and while it didn’t dethrone Alpine Trail for me, it was a blast.

On the Wenatchee River. #toasterroadtrip

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After a stop in Reardan, Washington near Spokane, where Lynn grew up, we pointed south, crossing into Oregon at The Dalles, and set up the tent in a familiar favorite – Smith Rock State Park, just north of Bend. While we brought a rope, harnesses, shoes and other climbing sundry, the crowds and heat dissuaded us from tackling Smith Rock’s amazing walls. Instead, we spent our days mostly in Bend, checking out breweries, hitting up some great restaurants, and sampling the Phil’s Trail Network.

Early morning at #smithrock #toasterroadtrip

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This area was decidedly XC compared to our previous destinations. Starting up the smooth and gradual Ben’s, we cut over on Voodoo into some chunky and awkward terrain before a seated pedal “downhill” on Phil’s. I’m betting this is a network that takes some time to suss out the best stashes and sequences.

A day after getting back to Truckee and I’m already poking around the internet, looking at videos of Ashland, Oregon and Issaquah, Washington, pondering the next trip. I think I might be willing to expand my territorial range in a northwesterly fashion.

The baby bear to the momma bear in my last post. #leavenworth #pnwonderland #toasterroadtrip #latergram

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Backcountry Skiing Lassen Peak

Slipping and sliding on my climbing skins, sweat dripping into my sunglasses, I looked back down the steep, blinding-white snowfield I’m slowly switch-backing up to watch Bunker pass me, tentatively placing the toes of his snowboard boots on the hard snow, while Sylas, Jensen and Renda pound their way up on snowshoes, boards strapped to their back.

We’re carrying the tradition of a group of journalists who previously tackled the Ruby Mountains and explored the Trinity Alps. This time, we’re climbing Lassen Peak in Lassen Volcanic National Park, with plans to ski and snowboard back down.

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We reached a burned-off ridge and walk carefully on the loose scree – even so I manage to kick a rock down at Renda.

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Bunker spotted the summer hiking trail, exposed and dry on a ridge to our east, and we decided to hike as much of the route as possible. We pass more hikers than skiers and snowboarders along the way, and stop occasionally to catch up on oxygen and enjoy the view of the coast mountains to our west and Sierra to the south – picking out the Sierra Buttes and maybe some familiar peaks around Tahoe.

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Eventually we reach the top, dropping skis, boards, backpacks and other gear to scramble the last bit to the true summit, looking at the caldera and north to Mt. Shasta.

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Summit marker.

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Team shot, looking south, with Matt Renda, Sylas Wright, me, David Bunker and Adam Jensen.

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Looking north, Shasta in the background.

With a large audience of hikers who still had to walk back down, we clicked into skis and boards, tentatively pointing down runneled and sun-cupped snow stained with red dirt. The steep pitch sends a couple of us sliding on their backsides for a few feet.

Rather than running it out to the bottom of the south-east aspect and a long slog back to the parking lot, we decide to click out for one switchback on the trail to get back to the steep and slick pitch we first climbed, now softened perfectly by the sun. Smooth, creamy turns all the way back to the car capped off the trip.

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2016 Tahoe Trails Summit – Takeaways

Tahoe Area Mountain Bike Association, the US Forest Service, Truckee Trails Foundation, Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship, Scott Nichols of Ibis, Gary Sjoquist of Quality Bicycle Products, officials from South Lake Tahoe, Mammoth and elsewhere all came together on a rainy weekend at the beginning of May to talk Tahoe trails.

There was good news and bad, reason for optimism and cause for caution. Here are some of the highlights I took away.

Optimism:

  • There are tons of stats out their supporting the benefits of bike trails, from positive impacts on property values to an average of $1 spent on trails saving $3 in healthcare costs in a community. The facts are there for the argument to be made.
  • People are putting their time and money where their tires are: Kevin Joell, trails director for TAMBA, counted almost 4,000 hours of volunteer trail work in 2015.
  • Sales taxes to support trails are popping up and proving effective in places like Truckee and Mammoth Lakes.
  • NICA: Sjoquist is at the helm of a Nevada high school mountain bike league that not only represents a future generation of mountain bikers, but also brings their parents into the sport, and requires trail building and maintenance as part of team activities.
  • The undeniable force of the outdoor industry: Netting $650 billion a year (26 billion for mountain biking alone) with 6.1 million jobs; a unified voice from outdoor recreation is a force to be reckoned with.
  • Tourism done right: The Wall Street Journal declared cyclists the new golfers in terms of tourism spending, and to those saying #dontmoabtahoe, Nichols pointed to the iconic southwest mountain biking destination as a model. “They have 700,000-800,000 mountain bike user days a year, and it doesn’t feel crowded out on the trails,” he said.

Caution:

  • An image crisis. Lake Tahoe Basin Management Unit Trails Engineer Jacob Quinn described a scene we’ve all watched on Youtube or Pinkbike of a slowmo rider drifting (skidding, in reality) through a turn, spraying up dirt and said it makes him cringe, and should make anybody who’s volunteered on trails cringe. It’s hard to convince land managers people like that should be allowed into wilderness.
  • Localism: Being a territorial jerk while living in a tourist destination isn’t an indicator of high IQ. You can be an ambassador for the trails and be more effective in protecting what you love. “I’ve seen more than a little resentment about change and more people on your trails,” Sjoquist said. “If you’re not happy because trails aren’t the way they used to be, get over it.” I’m looking at you #dontmoabtahoe hashtaggers.
  • “User conflict boils down to people choosing not to get along with someone else on the trail,” said Garret Villanueva with the Forest Service.
  • Less than 10 percent of Americans are visiting National Forest Lands. So why should they care about it?
  • TAMBA, a powerhouse for good trail stewardship and advocacy inside the Basin (and out) is fragile. One or two key volunteers burn out and we’re back to square one.

These are just a few of the points that I took away from the two-day event. What’s clear is there are many passionate people taking the sport in a positive direction. What isn’t clear is if a few bad apples will pull it in another.